GREAT FALLS — A public memorial service was held in Great Falls to honor Antonio “Tony” Renova, the five-year old boy who died after he was allegedly beaten by his parents last month.
The Dandelion Foundation organized the event, called "Antonio's Last Honors." It was held at Montana ExpoPark.
The Dandelion Foundation said that it would be "much more than a memorial service," and would be an opportunity for those affected by Tony's death to have some closure and, most importantly, answer the question, "What can I do to prevent this from happening to another child?"
Jamie Marshall of The Dandelion Foundation said it was an attempt to memorialize Tony and recognize community resources. “It’s meant to be a community memorial to really look at those resources that are available in our community and allow folks to brainstorm together and come together on what we can further do as individuals, as families, and as citizens,” she said.
Lacey Bateman has been supporting families involved in crimes like this one for more than a decade. She said, "I think that it’s important that the community knows that there’s a lot of resources out there so we can hopefully prevent this from happening,”Bateman said.
Although tragedies like this are tough to face, she knew she couldn’t turn a blind eye, Bateman said: "It’s hard to see these kind of things. It’s hard to know these things are happening in our community but it’s important that we make a difference even if it’s in just one person’s life."
Marshall explained that the community can use this tragedy as an opportunity for growth: “It continues to bring hope. This is a very giving community. This is a very cohesive community. At moments like these we can either choose to let it create some discord or we can come together."
Event highlights included:
❤️ Honoring Tony's Native American heritage
❤️ Beautiful live music
❤️ An inspirational call to action
❤️ A very special close to the service
❤️ A reception designed to wow kids of all ages
❤️ Worship teams for spiritual support
❤️ Opportunities to connect with agencies who serve children
❤️ The chance to get involved
In a Facebook post , the Dandelion Foundation also noted: "It is important for the community to know there are several family members who loved Tony dearly and did attempt to provide him a safe and loving home. We encourage those who do not have first-hand knowledge of the situation to refrain from speculating further. We hope the community finds some comfort learning Tony experienced love and kindness from several family members, including his incredible foster family."
Christy Foster, who was Antonio's foster mother from shortly after he was born until he was given back to his birth parents in February 2019, told MTN News, "Tony was a sweet boy. He loved animals. He always knew how to make people laugh because he was such a ham. He loved going to church. He loved learning new things." She assured us that he experienced much happiness and joy during his years with them.
Three suspects, including both of his parents, now face criminal charges for Tony's death.
After the memorial service, the Dandelion Foundation shared this post and video: